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July 24, 2024

Falcons Fire Head Coach Arthur Smith After Heated Altercation with Saints

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Jan 8, 2024

The Atlanta Falcons have fired head coach Arthur Smith after three seasons with the team. The move comes on the heels of an ugly incident during the Falcons’ Week 18 loss to the New Orleans Saints, in which Smith was seen yelling at Saints head coach Dennis Allen after the Saints scored a late touchdown despite having a large lead.

Lead Up to Firing

Arthur Smith was hired by the Falcons in 2021 after serving as offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. He brought with him a reputation as an innovative play-caller, but he struggled to produce consistent results in Atlanta.

In his first two seasons, Smith led the Falcons to 7-10 records. There were hopes that the team would take a step forward in 2023 with a bolstered roster, but the season ended in disappointment at 7-10 again.

While the Falcons showed flashes of potential under Smith, the offense and quarterback play never achieved the high level that was expected. Over the last few weeks of the 2022 season especially, tensions had been growing as the team failed to meet expectations.

The Final Straw

The Falcons entered their Week 18 game against the Saints as 17-point underdogs, and the game played out as expected. New Orleans dominated on both sides of the ball, racing out to a 24-7 halftime lead and never looking back.

In the fourth quarter with the score 41-17, the Saints had the ball on the Falcons’ one-yard line with just over two minutes remaining. New Orleans coaches reportedly called for the team to down the ball, but the Saints players decided otherwise. Quarterback Jameis Winston took the snap and handed it to running back Jamaal Williams, who ran it in for a touchdown.

The decision to score angered Smith, who believed the Saints were running up the score in an unsportsmanlike manner. After the 48-17 loss, Smith was seen yelling at Allen on the field, reportedly using expletives to express his displeasure over the touchdown. Allen later apologized for the incident.

Front Office Loses Faith

Falcons owner Arthur Blank had seen enough. With Smith’s mediocre record over three seasons and his heated actions during the Saints game, Blank decided a change was needed.

On January 8th, Blank announced Smith’s dismissal and the beginning of a coaching search. Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot will lead the search for a new head coach.

In his statement, Blank said “This was an extremely difficult decision, but we know we need significant improvement that will set us on a path to consistently compete for championships.”

Fallout from the Firing

Arthur Smith’s firing was met with mixed reactions around the league. Some praised the Falcons for moving on from a coach who didn’t produce results, while others believed Smith deserved more time with a rebuilding roster.

Players Stunned

Several Falcons players expressed surprise and disappointment at Smith’s ousting. Linebacker Mykal Walker said the players “had Arthur’s back 100 percent” and didn’t want to see him go.

Other Falcons admitted the timing of the firing was an issue. With most coaching vacancies already filled around the league, the team now faces a truncated timeline to find Smith’s replacement.

Reaction to Firing Quote
Cornerback A.J. Terrell “It definitely came as a surprise that quick, already having a new coach by the time we got back. It’s definitely something that a lot of people weren’t expecting”

| Guard Chris Lindstrom | “I wish we could’ve finished the season stronger for [Smith]. I feel I let him down.”
| Wide Receiver Drake London | “It hurt. It stung for sure. Arthur was a great coach.” |

Mixed Views Around the League

Opinion from others around the NFL was divided on Smith and the Falcons’ decision.

Former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III ripped into Smith, calling him “a loser” for his behavior during the Saints game. Others felt Smith embarrassed himself and the Falcons franchise with his expletive-laced tirade towards Saints coach Allen.

However, a reporter for Saints Wire defended Smith, saying he “[had] every right to be upset” over the Saints’ unsportsmanlike actions. Some analysts argued Smith had not been given enough of an opportunity to build a winner in Atlanta after just three seasons.

The Falcons’ NFC South division rivals were likely glad to see Smith go after finding quite a bit of success against Atlanta during his tenure. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Panthers and Saints posted a combined 9-3 record over Smith in the past three seasons.

What’s Next for the Falcons

Arthur Smith leaves Atlanta with a 21-27 record over three seasons at the helm. While his offenses showed innovation like offensive schemes with quarterback Marcus Mariota, the results never consistently appeared on the scoreboard.

Terry Fontenot now faces a difficult task of finding a new coach with the most attractive openings already taken. Potential candidates include former Saints coach Sean Payton, Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson or 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.

Whoever takes over will inherit a roster that has some nice pieces but still needs work. The Falcons have their quarterback of the future in rookie Desmond Ridder and rising stars like tight end Kyle Pitts and receiver Drake London. Improvement is needed on the offensive line and defense, so the new coach should bring an innovative defensive mindset.

The NFC South also presents an uphill battle with Tom Brady and the Bucs, as well as Sean Payton potentially returning to coach the Saints.

While the firing presents new challenges, Falcons owner Arthur Blank decided the team could wait no longer to build itself into a contender. He’s hoping this difficult decision will put the Falcons back on track towards the playoffs and Super Bowl contention.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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